ARV shortage hits Zimbabwe

A shipment of Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs meant for Zimbabwe will not be arriving in time due to Covid -19 induced delays, forcing the Ministry of Health and Child Care to reduce its six-month multi-drug dispensation to a maximum of three months.

This measure will ensure all patients receiving ARVs are catered for until more stocks are available.

In a circular –  stamped November 23, 2020, from the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Jasper Chimedza, to all Provincial Medical Directors, Chief Executive Officers of central hospitals and Directors of Health Services, said there would be a shortage of ARV drugs such as Tenofovir, Iamvudine and Dolutegravir due to shipment delays.

“The country has been advised by the supplier that due to Covid-19 induced delays in the production of the above product, shipments to Zimbabwe are going to be delayed and this will lead to shortages being experienced in the country,” he said.

The permanent secretary said in order to lessen the impact of shortages, the health ministry recommended that the multi-month dispensing (a six month supply of drugs) be reduced to three months per patient guided by stocks available at medical facilities.

He also added that “the provinces actively redistribute stocks between facilities to make sure there is equitable availability amongst facilities.”

“The ministry will provide further guidance once stocks in the country improve,” Chimedza said.

The above ARVs drugs are the recommended first line of antiretroviral treatment every patient must be on including both who are starting and those on older versions.

The multi month drug supply was given to all stable patients instead of them constantly going to hospitals.

It also limited movement during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic to curb its spread while also lessening burden on patients especially those in rural areas who had incurred more transport costs.

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In an interview with CITE, Director of the AIDS and TB unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Owen Mugurungi, said the cutting down of drug supply from six to three months would make sure every patient received their allocation until stocks improved.

“We hope there will not be negative effects for patients because instead of giving drugs for six months we are giving them a three month supply. That will mitigate against shortages than if we give drugs for six months to someone who will be holding on to their supply when another does not have any,” he said.

“Providing three months drugs can push someone and hopefully in the next two months or so the shipment would have made its way here then stocks would be available once more. The delays are beyond our control but we must work around them.”

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